Monday, November 30, 2015

Sugar Cane making the Bee Farm sweeter

Growing sugar cane on the Bee Farm just seemed to make sense.  From researching this plant it seems like it grows very well in the tropical climate we have here in Florida.  It's a unique plant and will produce some tasty stalks.  Plus I don't envision it being a plant that will be needing too much attention.

The last time I had real sugar cane was waaaaayyyyy back in 1974 while I was in the Navy.  Our ship stopped in Jamaica and all I remember was a long walk into town passing through sugar cane fields. I was with about a dozen guys and on that walk into town we would break off pieces of sugar cane and chew on the stalks.  They were a delicious pure sugary taste that was quite enjoyable to chew. 
Florida Green Sugar Cane and Florida Sweet Red Sugar Cane about to get planted

You can find just about anything on EBAY nowadays.  Sure enough I entered sugar cane and found a bazillion people selling sugar cane starter stalks to grow.   I received 4-5 stalks of the following varieties:  Rare Asian black, Florida Sweet Red, and Florida Green.  I soaked them in water for a couple hours and then planted all of them in pots which were then filed away in a corner of the yard.  Hopefully by next year there there will be a lot of activity in the pots.
Future Sweet Sugar cane plantation

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A tip for processing Moringa

One of the challenges of processing Moringa up until now has been getting the right texture where there are no stems in the final dried product.  It was extremely time intensive to manually strip out the tiny stems that would end up in our morning smoothie.  Because it's not very pleasant to be drinking a smoothie and pull a thin stem out of your mouth.  The stems don't blend down well.

We tried putting the dried Moringa in a small food processor with little success.  It just did not chop it up very well.  My wife finally just put the moringa in a plastic freezer bag and used a rolling pin to crush it down which worked just ok.

Last week I did some research to see how other people processed their moringa and found that they were using high end food processors like Blend Tec or Vitamix.  The advantage was it turned the moringa into a fine powder but the disadvantage was the expense ($300+) and it would be another gizmo to find a place for in the kitchen.    So after doing a little more research I accidentally stumbled on a website where someone was milling nuts and spices down in their nutri-bullet using the mill blade.  At this point a light bulb came on.  We have a nutri-bullet and it came with a milling blade we stuck in the back of our pantry.

nutri bullet / magic bullet
I grabbed a large nutri-bullet glass and filled it with crushed moringa and attached the milling blade.  In minutes the nutri-bullet pulverized the moringa into a fine powder.  It was amazing and it cost us nothing.  Plus we were able to make use of what we already had.  The powdered moringa was so much more usable than the barbaric crushed moringa.  The next harvest we won't have to be concerned about the small stems any longer.  It will significantly speed up the processing of moringa.
Moringa super food now a nice fine powder

Monday, November 23, 2015

Return of the Monarch's

Just a few days ago I noticed that the milkweed plants that were stripped bare earlier in the year, had grown and sprouted new leaves.  And then, just a couple of days later I walked by and all the milkweed plants were nothing but a bunch of sticks coming out of the ground !
Milkweed stripped down by hungry caterpillars

Sticks with a multitude of hungry caterpillars chomping away.  This is a good sign because it means we'll soon be seeing a bazillion new monarch butterflies on the Bee Farm.  They are good pollinators and will work with our Honey Bees to keep the gardens well pollinated.  Plus they're relaxing and entertaining to watch while they go along on their day to day business.  Good Stuff.
Ravenous caterpillar chomping away on milkweed

Friday, November 20, 2015

Blueberry recovery !!!

What really made my day yesterday was when I walked by the blueberry plants and noticed something different about a couple of the plants.  NEW LEAVES !!!   After being so concerned about the trees dying it now looks more like a natural cycle of the plant as about half of plants were sporting new shiny green leaves.  After working so hard on these blueberry plants,  it's good to know that they will survive and probably thrive. It's also good to know that we'll soon be eating our own delicious blueberries.
New leaves on the blueberry plants !!!!

Everything is growing like mad on the bee farm.  I typically spend about 8 hours a day working in the gardens.  It takes a lot of work to keep up with everything.  But really, it's more fun than work.  Yesterday pigeon peas, spinach, roma tomatoes chives and ginger were planted.   As soon as one set of seedlings graduates and moves out, the greenhouse gets another set of plant seeds started.   At least until we run out of room.

Baby plants
As all the raised beds are filling up with plants it's evident that we'll need to prepare the rear gardening section for new arrivals.  That section was where papaya and plumaria plants were grown in pots.  To make that area ready for vegetable planting, the papayas and plumaria were relocated.  During the move, I discovered a very unique plant I forgot that we had.  It was a shampoo ginger plant or Awapuhi.  We planted this plant earlier in the year and then forgot about it.  When it's mature it produces these beautiful red pine cone shaped flowers.  It is often referred to as “shampoo ginger,” and its most well-known use is that of a shampoo and hair conditioner.  However, the gel from the flowers is also used as a massage lubricant, the root is used for indigestion, toothache, and sprains and as a fragrance to scent clothing, and the leaves can be used as a flavoring for foods.

Awapuhi - Shampoo Ginger
The banana plants are multiplying like mad and there's a couple new banana pups going to town.  Pretty soon I'll be able to call it a banana plantation.
Banana pups

Turning into a banana and papaya plantation

Carrots, onions, tomatoes, cukes and moringa are really growing well.  It seems like I can almost notice the growth difference from day to day.


Cucumbers and beans

Carrots, Onions and Aloe



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Lessons, lessons, and more lessons

Gardening in Florida can be challenging and I've been experiencing my share of lessons for sure.  It seems that nothing works right the first and sometimes the second try.  But usually it can be figured out after some experimentation.

I'm proud to say that almost all my vegetable plants have been started from seed which is what I've been struggling with for the past year.  So many mistakes but I'm starting to get the hang of it.  Starting plants from seeds is quite satisfying and will be an economical way to grow vegetables and flowers.  The mistakes I made along the way are common for inexperienced Florida gardeners.  Having to deal with the mildew and bacteria in the soil has been a real eye opener.  And over watering, over fertilizing and over thinking some of the challenges thrown at me has killed quite a few small plants.  Especially the over watering.

By planting 10x as many seedlings as I needed, there ended up being more than enough survivor plants to populate the Bee Farm's garden.  We have plenty of healthy tomato plants, a few giant eggplant plants, green beans, cucumbers , carrots, onions, garlic, mint, peppers, jackfruit, bananas, pineapple, kale, and a few cold weather plants started - cabbage, broccoli and califlower.  The Moringa trees are growing like crazy and even after significantly cutting back one tree, it's still over 20' tall.  More Moringa than we'll ever need which is great.  Now the blueberry plants status is uncertain.  I cleaned the moss from their stems and trunks which was a tedious job.  And then they were sprayed with an anti fungus agent several times.  Finally I think I may have over fertilized them.  They look a bit stressed out and probably won't bear much, if any fruit this year.  But hopefully they'll rebound next year.  They needed work.  The strawberry plants are struggling and I'm not sure why.  Their numbers keep dwindling.  Pineapples are thriving now that they've been moved into a better location.  And the banana trees are going nuts so we'll probably see bananas soon.  Several small eggplants are now showing up also.  Our Papaya "Orchard" is producing a lot of small fruit which I've been trying to keep covered so bugs can't burrow into the fruit and lay their eggs.

It's been over a month since this blog was last updated and too much has changed around the bee farm to write about.  The Bees are doing great and have a lot of fall honey ready to harvest.  However most of it will probably be left for the bees to use over the winter.  The new Italian cordova genetics introduced into the hives with the new queens has been great and the bees are pretty laid back which is nice when working in the gardens.

Last month I found a local horse farm that gave away free composted horse manure and they even loaded my truck and trailer.  And I found some more free fine mulch from an oak tree stump grinder.  Wonderful stuff.  So the compost piles are turning good soil for future plants.